Saturday, December 31, 2011

Chapter 30: In Which the Author Decidedly Avoids the Usage of the Term "Resolutions"

It's New Year's Eve here in Qingdao, and with less than 12 hours to go in 2011, I have started compiling my list of goals for the new year.

I would not blame you if you chose to avoid this post. I understand that it's not the most enjoyable reading, but it is a way for me to hold myself somewhat accountable.

1. Learn a new skill or talent. More specifically, I'd like to learn one that allows me to make something with my hands. I'm currently lacking in that skills set.

2. Read 30 new books. This was on my list last year, and while I read 30 new books, I didn't finish some of them that I wanted to (War and Peace goes on the list for the third year running - uffda).

3. Start a photography club. Not at school, but among the Chinese and expats here. There are so many beautiful places in and around Qingdao, and I am feeling like I'm not capturing them well. Plus it's a great opportunity to develop some new relationships.

4. Learn one new Chinese lesson a week. It doesn't sound like a lot, but each lesson has about 35 new words along with new grammar rules and learning the characters. It will be a challenge.

5. Be able to write 1,000 Chinese characters. Doable, but I'll have to work at it. Currently around 250.

6. Write 12 letters. If you would like to be a recipient, let me know (and make sure I have your address)!

7. Be caught up on all grading by each Sunday. This might be my most difficult goal to accomplish.

8. Be involved in 12 community development activities. Not too sure what this will look like, but it needs to be on here for motivation.

9. Visit two new countries. This feels a little bit like cheating since I already know that I'm going to the Philippines, but oh well.

10. Be in a play. Also feels like cheating, as I have already started rehearsals as the Baker from "Into the Woods." I'll put it on here so that I can soothe my ego at the end of the year when I realize I haven't finished all of my goals to satisfaction.


What are some of your goals for 2012? 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chapter 29: Of Future Joys

I've been listening to this song a lot lately. 

"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

What a day that will be. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chapter 28: Concerning Nigeria, Musicals, and Second Christmas

I wasn't usually happy in Nigeria. I had a hard time at the school, I never felt like I fit in at a church, and it's just a generally difficult place to live your first time out of the country (I've been told by my Nigerian friends here in China that my city was one of the hardest as well - don't know how true that is). 

Even though my experience wasn't what I was hoping it would be, I still really learned a lot. And I still miss it terribly. I am thinking today of my old students, my old coworkers, my old Book study - and I wish I could see them again. I wish I could have some good Naija food and a trip to the market (even though it smells). I wish I could go to the Lebanese church to have some shawarma, and then enjoy an evening hearing the music blaring obnoxiously from a sound system somewhere in the neighborhood. I wish I could sit with my South African friends and talk about rugby.

I know that I was not supposed to be there any longer, and I am REALLY happy to be here (SO much peace about that). But now, instead of having just one home to miss, I have two.

I've shared before, via other mediums, a quote from "Into the Woods" (a great musical which I will be starring in this coming May). Jack has just climbed down from the beanstalk and he's reflecting on the experience. He says, "And you think of all of the things you've seen and you wish that you could live in between . . ."      Preach.

For those of you who have lived in two or more places (even in the same country), you know what I'm talking about. It's that pull in multiple directions. It's the knowledge that you are losing something by being where you are. It's the understanding that things will never be exactly the way you want on this side of death.

But one day - soon - all the best things of this world and far more will be revealed together. A second, eternal Christmas will bring the eternal Emmanuel.

Though it will be difficult, I can certainly wait until that day to be with all those I miss.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chapter 27: About Bells

Over and over again in the last year I have been reminded of the fact that every single one of the 7 billion people on this planet has gone or is going through difficult. Even if there is a sunny period in life, it seems as though the threatening storms are quick to roll in and remind us that this world has been broken.

And it's really easy to look at this broken world full of horrible, ugly situations and become overwhelmed with the heartache and pain and ugliness and anger and violence and deceit and selfishness and evil. The world's brokenness summed up in a resounding death knell that has been struck over and over again since the moment that the residents of the garden chose not to trust their maker.

The world doesn't work the way it's supposed to. Children die. Innocence is lost. War is waged. Evil seems to be the victor.

And in despair I hung my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
'God is not dead, nor does He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Even with the wrong and awful things in this world, we can trust that He has a plan. Didn't evil seem to be winning when he was up on that tree? Wasn't it in the hour of deepest hurt and darkest evil that the greatest good occured?

So even though I see hurting families here and around the globe, I will continue to point to his past faithfulness as a foundation for our hope. Even though this world is broken and will one day pass away, I will look to the one on that tree.